Casual Fine Dining 

39 Rue De Jean

Downtown - French

39 Rue de Jean looks like it’s been at 39 John St. forever and in Upper King’s recent restaurant history, it has. For the past 14 years the brasserie has kept regulars returning thanks to French classics and then some. Our favorites include the assiette de fromage, frisée lyonnaise, sweetbreads, and escargot. Then there are the big plates, like the New York steak frites (with butter!), the burger (one of the best in town maybe?), and the six preparations of mussels. A bowl for $9.99 with a side of frites and a pint of Fischer LaBelle Amber will do you up right. Try the pistou, the aioli, the bacon blue cheese, or really any of them. They’re all good. Chef Jason Dupree puts out plenty of succulent entrees (shrimp provençal, duck confit, chicken française, braised rabbit) that will have you dreaming of Paris, and the plats du jour are a good reason to put Rue on your regular rotation. Sunday brunch is the best time to try their amazing omelets, cooked to French perfection. —Kinsey Gidick - Dish (Summer 2015)

Acme Lowcountry Kitchen

Isle of Palms - Seafood

On weekends, Acme Lowcountry Kitchen is one of the most visited brunch locations around, and it’s no surprise as they’ve got a menu with over 60 options, including nine different benedicts — New York strip, crab cakes, fried chicken livers with kale, and sweet onion demiglace to name a few. But they’re also serving lunch and dinner with everything from American staples like burgers and wings to Lowcountry classics, a la fried green tomatoes and shrimp and grits. Acme also serves one of the best fried shrimp baskets in town — medium-sized shrimp are covered in a powdery breading that’s fried extra crispy, and each bite reveals a crunch and a whole lot of flavor. Oh, and you can’t beat the fact that it’s just a short walk from the ocean. Beach nap, anyone? —Eric Doksa Dish (Winter 2015)

Al di La

West Ashley - Italian

Piccoli cuscini di bontà. Google says this phrase means “little pillows of goodness,” which is how we’ve been describing the gnocchi at Al di La for years. Made with ricotta and mascarpone, the tender dumplings mix and mingle with small bites of shrimp and tomatoes, all tossed together in a light sauce with shreds of basil. This was the only thing we ordered for at least the first five years of Al di La’s existence. Nowadays, the equally delicious asparagus risotto with sea scallops rules our heart, but dining companions are always urged to order the gnocchi so we can steal a cheesy orb or two. —Stephanie Barna Dish (Winter 2014)

Amen Street Fish and Raw Bar

Downtown - Seafood

Kaitlyn Iserman

Located on the corner of East Bay Street in the heart of the tourist-center action, Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar serves up fresh, sustainable seafood in a historic yet stylish space. Exposed brick walls and amazing oyster shell chandeliers give the place a sleek look without all the cheesy tourist flair. The seafaring menu reveals Lowcountry classics like shrimp and grits, she-crab soup, and bowls of pirlau. Chef Adam Miller, an Art Institute of Charleston grad who formerly worked as sous chef at Stars Rooftop Bar and Grill Room, brings his love of local ingredients and sustainable seafood to the table to create fresh, modern dishes like fried flounder with Geechie Boy grits, stewed tomatoes, and St. Jude’s combahee clams. Stop by the raw bar for a fresh selection of oysters from the day’s suppliers. In the colder months, you might find bivalves from New Jersey, Massachusetts, and South Carolina — feel free to sample one of each. Paired with one of the many wines on tap, it’s the perfect way to start a night. —Eric Doksa Dish (Summer 2015)

Annie's Bistro

Mt. Pleasant - French

Jonathan Boncek

Pink Snapper

Annie’s Bistro opened its doors last year, and it’s a delight. Chef Carole Robert’s cooking starts with the best, freshest ingredients and treats them simply, with splendid results. Kick things off with tender but chewy escargot in a fragrant garlic butter broth, a charcuterie plate with Robert’s rich, savory housemade pâté, or a simple but delicious spring tomato salad topped with feta and vinaigrette. A whole snapper pan-seared in butter and garlic has sweet, pristine meat beneath a salty, garlicky skin, and a fan of sliced rosemary-infused duck breast is dark and rich. Whether its the fresh sausage from New York Butcher Shoppe slow cooked with cabbage or boudin noir served with crisp apples and mashed potatoes, the offering always surprises and impresses. Mt. Pleasant has long needed an option for a low-key but top-quality French dining, and Annie’s has stepped up nicely to fit the bill. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2015)

Aya Cookhouse

Mt. Pleasant - Asian Fusion

Jonathan Boncek

Lamb pho

When Red Orchids owners Kelly and Tony Chu announced they were opening a new restaurant, we were thrilled. The couple have built a reputation at their West Ashley location and bring the same creative flair to Aya. White walls, black geometric overlays, red-backed booths, chandeliers, a large, comfortable bar make the space feel cosmopolitan while still being in the same shopping center as Whole Foods. But what lies within is anything from pedestrian strip mall fare. On the short menu you’ll find appetizers like Asian grilled charsiu chicken wings and crispy scallion cakes. For entrees there’s Mapo rice gnocchi with ground pork or the South Korean fried chicken to share. But you’ll really want to come back for the slow-braised meatballs known as Chinese Lion Heads. The Chus continue to offer a comfortable atmosphere with unique offerings. —Kinsey Gidick Dish (Winter 2015)

Bacco Italian Restaurant

Mt. Pleasant - Italian

Jonathan Boncek

Chef/owner Michael Scognamiglio’s house-made pasta and gnocchi anchor Bacco’s impressive line-up of authentic southern Italian fare, while a frequently changing mix of large plates include eggplant parmesan, grilled marinated squid, and roasted veal with saffron risotto cakes. The hand-pulled mozzarella, savory fire-roasted olives, and insalata di polpo (braised octopus) are not to be missed. At lunch, there’s Neapolitan-style pizza baked in a wood-burning oven and rustic sandwiches made with Italian meats and that wonderful mozzarella. Thanks to bartender Tom Musiol, Bacco also has a rather nice cocktail menu with a decidedly Italian flair, offering up a Negroni Piemontese, the fig-infused Ficcho Bello, and the Boulevardier (more or less a Negroni with bourbon). But most impressive of all is Bacco’s semi-annual Feste di Mare in which Scognamiglio unveils an all-seafood menu featuring the likes of Cassoulet di Mare (wreckfish, octopus, and shrimp braised in cannellini beans and guarnciale), Tonnarelli con Acciughe (tonnarelli pasta and anchovy), and Gnocchi con Granchie (gnocchi with tomato white wine cream sauce and crab). Considering the reasonable price point — especially at lunch — Bacco is truly one of the most unheralded gems in the Lowcountry. —Robert Moss Dish, Winter 2016

Basil

Mt. Pleasant - Thai + Vietnamese

Jonathan Boncek

A lot has changed in the Charleston dining world since brothers Henry and Chai Eang opened their original Basil on King Street. Back then, the staple flavors of Thailand — lime, basil, garlic, lemongrass — were a revelation to local diners who queued up to wait for a table. A decade later, Basil’s flavors have gone mainstream, but the pad Thai, crispy red curry duck, fried whole flounder, and the long-standing no-reservations policy keeps customers lined up on the sidewalk. A sleek, stylish second location in Mt. Pleasant offers the same piping-hot soups and cool basil-tinged summer rolls that Charlestonians have long enjoyed. —Robert Moss Dish (Summer 2015)

Basil

Downtown - Thai + Vietnamese

Jonathan Boncek

A lot has changed in the Charleston dining world since brothers Henry and Chai Eang opened their original Basil on King Street. Back then, the staple flavors of Thailand — lime, basil, garlic, lemongrass — were a revelation to local diners who queued up to wait for a table. A decade later, Basil’s flavors have gone mainstream, but the pad Thai, crispy red curry duck, fried whole flounder, and the long-standing no-reservations policy keeps customers lined up on the sidewalk. A sleek, stylish second location in Mt. Pleasant offers the same piping-hot soups and cool basil-tinged summer rolls that Charlestonians have long enjoyed. —Robert Moss Dish (Summer 2015)

Bin 152

Downtown - Wine Bar

Brys Stephens

There is beauty in simplicity. Bin 152 is essentially a wine and cheese bar. Yet the offerings are anything but simple. Cosmopolitan husband-and-wife team Patrick and Fanny Panella (who have since opened the inimitable restaurant Chez Nous) are fanatical about their selections. Patrick, who once owned a wine bar in San Francisco, serves only wines that excite his palate. Fanny, who is French, is very particular about her cheeses. Bin 152 is therefore an extension of the Panellas and their combined F&B experience in New York, San Francisco, Paris, and Nice. You feel as if you’re walking into their personal hangout — artistic, comfortable, dimly lit, vibrant, chic but approachable. It’s the perfect spot to sip cava and nibble on triple cream fromage served with thinly sliced, fresh baked baguettes before heading to dinner or a show. Or to enjoy a late-night drink to wind down your evening. Or to spend a rainy late afternoon retreat sharing a bottle of wine and charcuterie board with friends. Don’t be intimidated by the formidable wine list or cheese menu. Patrick or Fanny will help steer you towards marvelous choices. You might wind up skipping dinner altogether. — Allston McCrady Dish (Summer 2015)

Blu Restaurant & Bar

Folly Beach - Seafood

Oceanfront dining is a rare commodity in this town, but Blu serves it up all day long. And Chef Jon Cropf takes his seafood serious. So serious that the restaurant has garnered a platinum rating from the S.C. Aquarium’s Sustainable Seafood Institute, which means you can order the fish of the day and feel confident that it’s an environmentally responsible catch. Ostensibly a hotel restaurant located within the Tides hotel, Blu is a casual place that also caters to the locals who like to impress visitors with the excellent fare, whether it’s surf and turf or shrimp and grits. During the summer, the Sunday brunch with crab benedicts and steak and eggs served sunny-side up is always popular. —Stephanie Barna Dish (Summer 2013)

The Boathouse at Breach Inlet

Isle of Palms - Seafood

Kaitlyn Iserman

Pan-roasted sea scallops come atop parmesan risotto with prosciutto, asparagus, and a lemon rosemary vinaigrette

The Boathouse boasts one of the best dining views in the Lowcountry thanks to its perch at the edge of Breach Inlet on the Isle of Palms. Since 1997, its broad menu of fresh, local seafood has been drawing crowds of locals and vacationers alike. The daily “Fish Board” highlights a rotating selection of fresh, local catches, which you can have grilled, blackened, fried, or roasted, and there’s a generous array of house specialties, like crab cakes, sweet tea-brined fried chicken, and a sirloin paired with a butter-poached lobster tail. Toby Van Buren harvests his clams from beds literally just around the corner, and the Boathouse serves them in the shell with house-cured bacon and spinach ragout. On weekends, hearty eggs benedict, jalapeño and sweet hush puppies, and po’ boys provide brunch options that are almost as satisfying as the marsh view from the big rooftop deck. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2015)

Bougnat Restaurant

Mt. Pleasant - French

Tucked into a quiet strip mall you'll find this cozy cafe serving Auvergne-inspired French cuisine from chef Bernard Vard.

Cannon Green

Downtown - Mediterranean

Look for the flickering gas lanterns over garden green French doors on Spring. Cannon Green’s elegant interior feels like a posh garden patio that floods with sun by day and flickers with romantic votives by night. Chef Amalia Scatena trained in Florence, Italy, and brings an international sensibility (she’s been channeling Mexico recently) to Lowcountry classics, with plenty of local sourcing. From lighter dishes like shrimp escabeche, a blend of avocado, crunchy jicama, grapefruit, and crispy yucca, to the more indulgent buttermilk fried quail, the artfully plated dishes mirror their contemporary surroundings. With dishes like lavender French toast, blue corn and lobster hushpuppies, and poached duck eggs over grits, Cannon Green offers one of the more creative brunches in town. —Allston McCrady Dish (Summer 2015)

Chez Fish

Johns Island - Seafood

Reese Moore

Bouillabaisse

Head down the lonely road to Seabrook and Kiawah islands and the little blue-and-white building housing Chez Fish is one of the first signs of civilization you’ll see for miles. Inside and out, it’s simple and unassuming, but the restaurant has become known for its well-prepared food. You’ll find a cooler filled with fresh seafood, a bar, and a few tables in the front room and a colorful, cozy dining room to the side. Chef and owner René Constantin has created a small but solid menu with dishes like a curried shrimp and scallop medley, tortilla encrusted tilapia with a Mexican butter sauce, and linguini with white clam bolognese. Be sure to check out the daily specials on the chalkboard. —Erica Jackson Curran Dish (Summer 2013)

Chez Nous

Downtown - French

Jonathan Boncek

Lamb salad with arugula and oranges

Chez Nous is a small, somewhat eccentric, and thoroughly charming downtown restaurant. It occupies a small two-story cottage on Payne Court, a narrow alley off Coming Street, and has just a handful of spartan tables on each floor. Executive Chef Jill Mathias writes out the tiny menu by hand each day in a highly stylized script. The six items — two appetizers, two entrées, and two desserts — change each and every day, and they never seem to repeat. A duck confit salad with walnuts on Tuesday might be followed by marinated sardines over onions and radishes on Wednesday. A delicate pan-seared snapper with baby carrots and mushrooms might be succeeded by a pork shank with potatoes and kale. The lineup is in constant flux, but one thing is reliably consistent: bold, fresh flavors in simple but elegant preparations, a winning formula for a wonderful meal. —Robert Moss Dish, Winter 2016

Coast

Downtown - Seafood

Ceviche

Just to the left of 39 Rue de Jean, down a narrow alley lined with ivy covered brick, look for the bright neon sign beckoning diners into this friendly, boisterous seafood venue. Inside, a towering ceiling caps this historic warehouse bustling with diners. An open kitchen flanks the lively bar area as classic rock tunes and rustic décor (we dig the red blowfish lamps) contribute to the “island lounge” vibe. It’s only natural to indulge in one of Coast’s signature mojitos, but I can personally vouch for the peach julep — not too sweet, and generous on the bourbon. Folks rave about the lobster ceviche, crispy fried whole flounder, parmesan mashed potatoes, daily catch grilled over oak and hickory flames, and paella served piping hot in a cast iron skillet. It’s definitely on the pricey side, so brace your checkbook, but you can also fill up on cocktails and apps at a lower price point, and enjoy $4 taco specials on Sunday nights, with live music to boot. Weather permitting, grab an open table along the alley and imagine you’re in a coastal European town, that is, until your heaping plate of shrimp and stoneground grits plants you squarely in the Lowcountry. —Allston McCrady Dish (Summer 2015)

Coda del Pesce

Isle of Palms - Italian

Jonathan Boncek

Crudo di pesce

With Coda del Pesce, chef/owner Ken Vedrinski of downtown’s Trattoria Lucca, headed out to the Isle of Palms to create a beachside Italian seafood restaurant. The beautiful second-story dining room has brick walls, reclaimed wood floors, and, in a rarity for the Lowcountry, floor-to-ceiling windows offering a lovely view of the Atlantic. It’s an ideal setting for Vedrinski’s signature high-end Italian fare, which offers plenty of bright flavors and unexpected twists. Grilled octopus is paired with golden beets and pickled garlic while chilled oysters are served with a barolo mignonette. Masterful pasta anchors the primi selection, which includes spaghettoni tossed with braised clams and ’nduja sausage. The secondi highlight fresh local fish like scamp grouper and there’s a little heavier fare, too, like raised veal loin. Pair any of these with an Italian wine from the impressive list, and you’ll have one splendid fish tale to share with friends. —Robert Moss Dish, Winter 2016

Crave Kitchen & Cocktails

Mt. Pleasant - Fusion + Eclectic

Crave Kitchens and Cocktails has become a Mt. Pleasant standby for casual fine dining in the evenings and satisfying weekend brunches, too. The dinner menu features cedar plank salmon, buttermilk fried chicken, and lobster farfalle. Chef Landen Ganstrom’s she crab soup, topped with a dollop of creme fraiche and a drizzle of chili oil plus a generous lump of crab meat skimming the surface atop a crouton raft, may well be the best local interpretation of Charleston’s signature soup. On Saturdays and Sundays, the brunch features a “rustic skillet” of taters and country ham, omelets stuffed with your choice of toppings, plus massive plates of pancakes and 2-for-$5 mimosas and Bloody Marys. And that’s enough to leave the good people of Mt. P craving more. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2013)

Cru Cafe

Downtown - Fusion + Eclectic

Tucked in a cozy Charleston single house on Pinckney Street, just a stone’s throw away from the busy City Market, chef and owner John Zucker has been serving wandering visitors and in-the-know locals for more than a decade now. Between his downtown dining room and its original namesake, Cru Catering, chances are you’ve had their crowd-favorite four-cheese mac, their shrimp and grits, or their other small bites. But you owe it to yourself to visit the cafe again. Stop in and be seated at tables lining the house’s old living room and porch — you’ll feel right at home. Expect satisfying plates ranging from their famous Thai seafood risotto for dinner to generous salads and sandwiches priced right around $10. —Sam Spence Dish, Winter 2016

Cumberland Smokehouse

Downtown - Barbecue

Jonathan Boncek

Pulled pork platter

This sleek sports bar with dark wood paneling, large scale booths, and a separate bourbon tasting bar is the perfect hide away on the downtown peninsula to drink a good cocktail or a craft beer and nosh on smoked chicken wings with Alabama white sauce. Any sporting event is empty without the proper culinary accroutrement so step up the game with their Benton’s Country Ham spread for the table. The delectable smoked meats at Cumberland — pork or chicken — have the hint of hickory and the right balance of juicy tenderness with crispy end pieces scorched by the fire. In addition to the meat, save room for the decadent loaded fries topped with pulled chicken or pork, smoked cheddar cheese, bacon, white barbecue sauce and jalapenos or keep it kosher with the barbecue duck fat fries that include a large basket of perfectly crisped fries in a sweet and salty barbecue seasoning, no ketchup needed. Don’t miss the special of the day — as it’s usually one of the best items on the menu — and their highly regarded ribs, showcased on the weekends, are worth the trip. —Katherine Connor Dish (Summer 2015)

Fat Hen

Johns Island - French

Seared duck

Serving Dinner (Mon.-Sat.), Sun. Brunch Folks in the know, especially those from Kiawah, pack this adorable cottage on Johns Island nightly for sumptuous dinners, but the real stampede of bucket-listers come here for Sunday brunch, eager to sample Chef Neuville’s signature take on Lowcountry staples with a French-country flare. Order a $10 carafe of mimosas or the spiked Lowcountry Lemonade made with Firefly Sweet Tea vodka, then dive into the crème brulee French toast slathered with strawberries soaked in Grand Marnier. The hyper-local, ever-changing menu includes favorites like garlicky escargot, fried green tomatoes with goat cheese, crispy pork belly, smoky pulled duck barbecue with cool blue cheese creamy coleslaw, melt-in-your-mouth butcher’s steak, and Flintstone-sized portions of pecan-smoked braised short ribs or lamb shanks with sides like truffle grits or a bright succotash. End with a boozy Derby pie, sticky bun bread pudding, or seasonal cobbler, then treat your food coma to a peaceful moment beneath the nearby ancient Angel Oak, said to be the oldest living tree east of the Mississippi. —Allston McCrady Dish, Winter 2016

FIG

Downtown - Modern American

Adam Chandler

FIG has now been around long enough to qualify as a Charleston institution, but it is still wowing diners with its unwavering commitment to high quality food and a flawless dining experience. Chef Mike Lata and his partner Adam Nemirow have built a team that’s as serious about that philosophy as they are, including Executive Chef Jason Stanhope, whose skill and finesse shines through in bright flavors and beautiful dishes. Painstakingly perfected preparations are applied to the rotating ingredients of the day, so layers of Napa cabbage and black trumpet mushrooms might frame slow-baked beeliner snapper one day and sauteed red porgy the next. Some of the best dishes are almost spartan in their simplicity, like a crudite of local root vegetables accompanied by fromage blanc and sesame that let the pure flavor of the ingredients carry the plate. A handful of rich favorites like ricotta gnocchi with lamb bolognese, the warming fish stew in cocotte, and a delicate coddled egg with poached stone crab have become menu staples. The front of the house affably keeps the busy dining room running smoothly — and by busy, we mean hourlong waits just for a seat at the bar on a Monday night. That wait doesn’t seem likely to get shorter any time soon. —Robert Moss Dish, Winter 2016

Fish

Downtown - Seafood

Did you know that we have a Master French chef in town; the only one located in South Carolina? And that there are only 65 in the United States, including chef Daniel Boulud and chef Eric Ripert? If that’s not reason enough to dine with chef Nico Romo in a beautifully restored 1837 Charleston single home with an outdoor piazza on Upper King street, then let the menu speak for itself. Classically French preparations with Asian influences allow the locally sourced seasonal ingredients and sustainable seafood to shine. Romo’s famous bouillabaisse preparation gets a slight twist when served in a coconut broth with lemongrass just as the snapper a la plancha comes in a crawfish green curry, or the lobster tail in a miso foie gras beurre blanc over parsnip dumplings with sunchokes and asparagus. Not in the mood for seafood? Then try the tempura fried duck over spring-pea waffle or the 72-hour sous vide short rib with raviolis de royan. Don’t miss the dollar dim-sum for happy hour with tantalizing offerings like tempura fried octopus, duck confit with truffled goat cheese, or crab gougere with truffle emmental. —Katherine Connor Dish (Summer 2015)

Fleet Landing

Downtown - Seafood

Stuffed Hush Puppies

Water water everywhere, but not a place to see it, at least as far as Charleston restaurants are concerned. Luckily we have one downtown spot with a most distinctive maritime setting and best waterfront view in town — Fleet Landing. Seated in a refurbished Naval house set over a reinforced pier, you’ll be counting dolphins and sailboats that glide by while you dine on the classic southern seafood fare. Hushpuppies filled with lobster volute, rock shrimp, leeks and corn? Yes, please. All the classics are recommended here: Carolina lump crab cake with pickled corn relish, shrimp and grits, she-crab soup with blue crab roe and sherry, a Lowcountry boil chopped full or shrimp, sausage corn and red bliss potatoes or crispy whole fried flounder with apricot glaze. This family-friendly setting is always popular so be sure to make a reservation before you go. —Katherine Connor Dish (Summer 2015)

The Granary

Mt. Pleasant - Modern American

Jonathan Boncek

Charcuterie Plate

At The Granary, chef/owner Brannon Florie, who helped create the menus for many of Charleston’s more noted restaurants, has found a home for his own bold style and precise execution. Intense farm-to-table food is the name of the game, starting with charcuterie made in-house from whole, heirloom-breed animals: duck prosciutto shimmering with fat, creamy pâté, and pistachio-laced mortadella. Small plates offer hearty combinations like pork fried Charleston Gold rice with confit duck leg or pork belly over stoneground grits with an over-easy egg. The larger mains include seasonal fish and a cioppino of local crab, shrimp, and clams in a White Thai broth, and there are big red meat pleasers like tender short ribs and grilled hanger steak. From the first bite, the smoked pork chop is stunningly crisp, salty, and smoky, and it’s become a favorite of The Granary’s fans. It’s all rounded out by a selection of creative, well-made cocktails and a serious craft beer lineup, giving diners East of the Cooper a dose of contemporary snout-to-tail eating right in their own backyards. —Robert Moss Dish, Winter 2016

Graze

Mt. Pleasant - Modern American

Kaitlyn Gandy

Spicy tuna tataki

Graze is a clear cut standby for many Mt. Pleasant residents and outsiders should take should take note. Chef/Owner Michael Karkut offers a unique blend of down-home favorites­ — lobster mac and cheese, shrimp and grits, and cornflake-crusted catfish with butterbeans, sweet corn, and hominy succotash — with more creative dishes like cinnamon-chili-dusted sea scallops with a sweet potato and brown butter pancake, sauteed green beans, and apple, onion, and pancetta compote. There’s some Asian flair too. As is the case with the spicy tuna tatiki with “firecracker” mayo and the Korean beef bulgogi. The lunch menu brings about a New England lobster roll and a duck confit B.L.T., and brunch shouldn’t be missed. Chicken and waffles with a side of duck fat sweet potato hash browns, anyone? Luckily for those further up I-26, Graze 2.0 is slated to be open any day now. It’s only a matter of time before Summerville deems Graze a local favorite too. —Eric Doksa Dish (Winter 2015)

The Grocery

Downtown - Modern American

Adam Chandler

Golden tilefish

Every time we visit The Grocery, we leave full and happy. Kevin Johnson and crew continue to lead the locavore movement on Upper King, and rightly so. The ever-changing menu includes an array of small and large plates, making it easier for groups to sample and share a variety of good eats. We’ve seen whole-roasted fish; big, dry-aged porterhouse steaks; and enormous servings of pilau, but the “Plates” options are ample size, too. The huge, wood-burning oven adds a touch of smoke to beef cheeks and squid, but we can’t seem to stop thinking about the wood-roasted carrots with crumbles of pistachio, dates, Greek yogurt, and feta — a sensational dish that perfectly symbolizes what locavorism is all about. Among the hundreds of jars of pickled veggies, preserves, and relishes, there’s a stellar bar program, too. Choosing a drink at The Grocery is not an easy task, but you can’t go wrong with the Cannonborough Old Fashioned — it’s become one of our go-to cocktails. —Eric Doksa Dish, Winter 2016

Hank's Seafood Restaurant

Downtown - Seafood

Ceviche

Hank’s combines old Charleston style with the bold flavors of contemporary sea-to-table dining. Waiters in white jackets and black ties serve historic local dishes like she-crab soup, curried shrimp in a coconut- and banana-laced sauce, and Seafood a la Wando, a blend of shrimp, scallops, and fish in a rich sherry cream. The “Fried” section of the menu features five different selections of heaping Southern seafood platters, all served with fried sweet potatoes and classic coleslaw. Alongside such substantial, crowd-pleasing favorites, Chef Frank McMahon displays his serious fine-dining chops with up-to-date preparations of local fish, like grilled swordfish with fried okra and sauteed spinach in a sweet corn, leek, and ham hock bisque. If you want to really impress, Hank’s seafood tower or seafood castle — gleaming silver ice-filled pans bearing chilled shrimp, oysters, mussels, lobster, and stone crab claws — is sure to do the trick. Add it all up, and you’ve got flashy, big-ticket seafood dining that can please even the most sophisticated palate. —Robert Moss Dish, Winter 2016

High Thyme

Sullivan's Island - Modern American

Jonathan Boncek

Seared scallops

High Thyme is one of Sullivan’s Island’s best kept secrets. The dining room is small and quaint, and the menu is as simple as it gets: think hummus, seared tuna, and crab cakes. But simple is no problem, as the dishes are presented with a glimpse of elegance and the flavors that follow are quite good ­— consistency and execution at its finest. For dinner, order the grilled pork tenderloin cooked medium rare and start with the seared sea scallops with country ham and brandy cream. Head to the patio early Sunday morning and enjoy one of the best brunches in town. Start off with a mimosa and a basket of warm biscuits before diving into a plate of corned beef hash with two sunny side up eggs. It’s delightful. —Eric Doksa Dish (Winter 2015)

Hominy Grill

Downtown - New Southern

Picnic Sampler

When chef/owner Robert Stehling of Hominy Grill won the James Beard Award for Best Chef Southeast in 2008, it marked a shift in the Southern dining world. He didn’t win it with high-falutin’ French-inspired techniques or white tablecloth service but rather by serving classic Southern cooking — including breakfast — in a neighborhood restaurant setting. Stehling has since expanded the building and put a little more emphasis on evening dinner service, but the qualities that made Hominy Grill such a hit remain. That means hearty country breakfasts with pancakes, eggs, and house-made sausage. The Charleston Nasty is a massive fried chicken breast and a cascade of sausage gravy (go all-in with the addition of bacon), and it wows the brunch crowds. At lunch and dinner, you can make a satisfying meal just from the ever-rotating selection of Southern veggies, but that would mean passing on Stehling’s superior versions of Lowcountry classics like country captain, shrimp bog, and the always-novel products of his smoker, like barbecued lamb and goat. The tourists still queue up on the weekends for their big Southern brunches, but there’s a reason that so many people are waiting in line. —Robert Moss Dish, Winter 2016

Husk Restaurant

Downtown - New Southern

Cornbread

The opening of Husk marked the full flowering of Sean Brock’s hyper-Southern culinary philosophy, and it rocketed him to full-fledged celebrity chef status. The restaurant remains one of the hottest dining tickets in town, and foodies from all over still make pilgrimages to sample the intensely flavored and ingredients-centric plates. As Brock’s empire expanded to include an outpost of Husk in Nashville and the new taco-centric venture Minero, long-time sous chef Travis Grimes was recently promoted to the executive chef position. He carries on some of Brock’s more dramatic lardcore flourishes, like pig’s ear lettuce wraps and fried chicken skins, but the real treasures are the ever-changing creations that combine the old and the new. Briny Coosaw Cup oysters are bathed in Bloody Mary butter, shaved celery, and pepper vinegar, then roasted in the wood-fired oven. Pan-fried rice middlings are tossed with kimchi, grilled beef, and shaved purple carrots and infused with intense savory flavors. Fresh-caught beeline snapper is perfectly seared and served over a pile of crisp pole beans in a dark, smoky shiitake broth. The Bar at Husk, which is located in a separate outbuilding to the side of the old white mansion, has evolved into its own institution, with an extensive collection of fine brown water, an ever-changing lineup of inventive punches and cocktails, and suitably Southern bar snacks, like aged country ham carved to order and Brock’s fried chicken, which undergoes constant experimentation in pursuit of perfection. What Husk launched to the world just a few years ago has since become the dominant mode in Southern dining — wood-roasting, pickling and preserving, putting heirloom ingredients front and center — and there’s still no better place to experience the full potential of Southern cuisine than at Husk Restaurant. —Robert Moss Dish, Winter 2016

Lana

Downtown - Mediterranean

Year in and year out, Lana Restaurant has remained a reliable choice for fine neighborhood dining. Chef/owner John Ondo’s eclectic menu takes its inspiration from around the Mediterranean. Spicy Spanish-style bacalao soup appears alongside lamb spanakopita and splendid gnocchi ai funghi. The daily risotto is always reliable, and Ondo’s duo of duck breast and leg confit and pan-roasted Basque-style chicken are impressive regulars on his ever-shifting menu. Lana is a great spot for happy hour, too, with a good wine list and a tapas menu boasting lamb kefta, potato croquettes, and roasted shrimp with feta and spicy tomato sauce. The stylish atmosphere and spot-on service keeps Lana the insider’s pick for an excellent downtown meal. —Robert Moss Dish (Summer 2015)

Leyla

Downtown - Mediterranean

Jonathan Boncek

Combination platter

Leyla, you’ve got me on my knees. No, really. After you’ve tucked into a hearty helping of the mezze offerings at this Mediterranean spot, you’ll be hard-pressed to find room for more. The shankleesh, labneh, falafel, baba ghanoush, and grape leaves are served up with warmth and plenty of explanation for those unfamiliar with Lebanese cooking. On the entree side, the shawarma — thin shavings of spiced beef roasted on a spit — is delicious, wrapped in a pita or on its own. And the adventurous eater can find plenty to be thankful for in the restaurant’s frog legs and lamb tongue coated in lemon. The space is simple yet sophisticated, with huge glass windows looking out onto King Street. And while we love visiting for dinner, lunch is equally enjoyable as proprietors Joseph and Dolly Awkar keep the atmosphere genuinely friendly and welcoming regardless of which hour you visit. —Kinsey Gidick Dish (Winter 2015)

Lowcountry Bistro

Downtown - Southern

Jonathan Boncek

Southern-style mussels

Say hello to one of our favorite rustic, brick-walled dining ventures on Market Street. Steve Kish, a long-time restaurateur in Charleston and owner of 82 Queen, opened Lowcountry Bistro in the heart of Charleston’s historic Market district. LB takes on traditional Southern cuisine with a few modern twists and a dash of Creole and French thrown in the mix. Frogmore stew, shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, and Carolina crab cakes exist alongside the Market Burger, cioppino, and jambalaya, which ensures there’s something for everyone. The setting is simple and casual, with a large second floor balcony, which is perfect for people-watching while enjoying a refreshing peach cooler. —Eric Doksa Dish (Winter 2015)

The Macintosh

Downtown - Modern American

Adam Chandler

Fish

There are a few regular favorites on The Macintosh’s menu: the intensely flavorful 7-oz. grilled ribeye deckle, the extravagantly rich bone marrow bread pudding, and the 8-oz. house-ground Mac burger with aged cheddar, Nueske’s bacon, and pecorino truffle fries. But the real delight of Executive Chef Jeremiah Bacon’s ever-shifting menu is wondering what he will come up with next. Bacon combines a passionate farm-to-table aesthetic with flawless high-end technique. You might find thin-sliced beef tongue tossed with red lunchbox peppers, shaved cotija cheese, and an array of herbs or two delicate lamb-filled ravioli served over a creamy onion soubise with savory lamb jus. The most reliable bet on the menu is the local catch, like grilled local swordfish with butter beans, sunchokes, and whey dashi or a crisp-seared red snapper laid out on a bed of lentils and spinach and accented with preserved Meyer lemon and cherry tomatoes. It’s all served in a stylish environment that walks the line between upscale and casual. For an affordable weekday treat, duck in for the Bacon Happy Hour with $5 plates like chicken dumplings and lettuce wraps paired with $5 specialty cocktails. —Robert Moss Dish, Winter 2016

Minero

Downtown - Mexican

Jonathan Boncek

Green chorizo tacos

At Minero, Executive Chef Sean Brock takes his culinary passion South of the Border, applying to Mexican street food the same obsessive focus on technique and ingredients that made him a celebrity at McCrady’s and Husk. This fall the restaurant moved upstairs into McCrady's former gallery space, but the vibe remains. Even with exposed brick walls, wood-slatted banquettes, servers in T-shirts and khakis, they’re still serious about the food. Brock and crew make their tortillas from scratch, nixtamalizing and grinding landrace heirloom corn into masa and pressing them two times a day. They top them with traditional fillings, like green chorizo, potato, and grilled onion, as well as Southern fusions — think fried catfish with pickled green tomato tartare. Servers douse charcoal-grilled chicken wings with Valentina hot sauce and shake them tableside in brown paper bags. The menu’s cultural mash-ups include shrimp and masa grits, Carolina Gold arroz rojo, and a burrito filled with hoppin’ john, avocado, poblano, and queso de Oaxaca. The appealing bar selection includes 16-oz. cans of Tecate, dozens of artisan mescals, and an array of cocktails named for lucha libre wrestlers. It’s a whole new vibe for tony East Bay Street, bringing the vivid flavors of the Mexican streets to the heart of Charleston’s old restaurant row. —Robert Moss Dish, Winter 2016

Muse

Downtown - Mediterranean

Shawn Weismiller

Some things at Muse never change, like the crispy sea bass, a whole deboned fish that’s lightly fried until the skin is crisp and golden. Or the grilled duck breast rubbed with tart sumac and the merguez sausage with red peppers, fennel, and radish. But the catch of the day — grouper, golden tilefish, wreckfish — keeps things moving forward, combining the freshest local fish with bright Mediterranean accents. The bouillabaise steeps shrimp, mussels, scallops, and fish in a rich saffron and wine sauce, while heartier plates pair grilled lamb chops with dried figs and lemon puree and a 13-ounce ribeye with fennel gratin. With dozens of good selections by the glass, Muse’s wine list is among the most comprehensive in town. Whether you snag an outdoor table in the small courtyard, a cozy seat in one of the small dining rooms, or a stool at the wine bar in the front room, you’re bound to have a pleasant Mediterranean journey. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2015)

The Obstinate Daughter

Sullivan's Island - Seafood

Jonathan Boncek

Ricotta Gnocci

At The Obstinate Daughter, Executive Chef Jacques Larson’s big, open kitchen has a plancha and a wood-fired oven, and he uses it to create a beguiling array of pizza, pastas, and small plates. The pizzas bear tempting toppings, like clams and roasted fennel or pork meatballs and red peppers. The dishes on the rotating “plates” menu range in size from “Geechie frites” (long strips of fried polenta) up to a lamb collar with chickpea stew. Soft, buttery toasted bread is stuffed with a mixture of boiled shrimp, herbs, and creamy white dressing to create a Lowcountry shrimp roll. Fluffy ricotta gnocchi are topped with an intensely flavorful short rib ragu with tender strands of beef in a pool of reddish orange tomato-tinged jus. All this is served in an airy, open dining room with light-gray weathered planks accented by lots of pale-blue details. It’s a cheery, casual environment for enjoying Larson’s impressive parade of delicate but flavorful dishes. And that makes The Obstinate Daughter one of the best upscale dining destinations not just out on the beaches but anywhere in town. —Robert Moss Dish, Winter 2016

O-Ku

Downtown - Sushi + Japanese

Yellowtail Carpaccio

You pretty much can’t go wrong with O-Ku. With the sushi chefs turning out half-price rolls and the well-appointed bar staff slinging marked-down cocktails during happy hour on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (not a typo!), the King Street hotspot has something for the California roll lover and the nigiri expert alike. To be honest, we rarely stray from the sushi. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t like O-Ku’s twist on the venerable potato roll (shrimp tempura, avocado, shoe-string potatoes, eel sauce, and mango remoulade). Our favorites are the tuna tataki roll (seared tuna, tempura shrimp, avocado, eel sauce, spicy aioli) and the dapper snapper roll (red snapper, spicy tuna, avocado, cucumber, pickled red onion, sweet chili vinaigrette). From the bar, the crisp lemongrass gin and tonic and the sweet Saigon sunset always hit the spot. If you stick around after the lights go down, don’t be surprised if it feels more like a nightclub than a restaurant. —Sam Spence Dish (Winter 2015)

Old Village Post House

Mt. Pleasant - New Southern

Housed in a restored 19-century general store on charming Pitt Street, the Old Village Post House now belongs in the Hall Management Group’s portfolio, retaining much of the allure that has made it a popular Mount Pleasant outpost for downtown and East Cooper diners alike. The white beadboard walls and dark pine floors of the dining room make an elegant but cozy setting, while the tavern room, with its brown leather chairs, is a comfortable spot for casual cocktails. Executive Chef Frank Lee and Chef Forrest Parker apply a European sensibility to fresh Southern ingredients. The seasonal menu emphasizes fresh and locally-available ingredients, including crab stuffed flounder served alongside Lowcountry shrimp and yellow squash flavored with herb butter or a peach salad with spinach, radishes, goat cheese, sherry honey vinaigrette, and pecans. And remember to watch for intriguing combinations on the vegetable plate (jumbo asparagus, sweet corn, okra, green beans, grilled tomato), and excellent versions of Lowcountry favorites, like crab cakes and shrimp and grits, round out an impressive dining offering. —Sam Spence Dish, Winter 2016

Opal

Mt. Pleasant - Modern American

Jonathan Boncek

Cavatelli

Opal holds its ground as the go-to spot in the far reaches of Mt. Pleasant. The modern Tuscan decor and a menu that fuses fresh American and Mediterranean cuisine give diners a chance to experience a big night out without breaking the bank. A respectable charcuterie and cheese list, a handful of handcrafted pastas, and entrees like crispy chicken breast with crispy golden potatoes, caramelized Brussels sprouts, and lemon-truffle aioli anchor the menu. The filet with mascarpone-chive potatoes and barolo sauce has been a favorite since the beginning, along with pork chop ribs served with cavatelli, local greens, and apple-citrus pan sauce. A handful of worthy craft beers and an extensive wine list help spice up the night. And let’s not forget the legendary salted caramel gelato: to die for. —Eric Doksa Dish, Winter 2016

The Ordinary

Downtown - Seafood

Jonathan Boncek

The Ordinary has become a must-visit Charleston destination for pristine shellfish and exceptional seafood plates. It’s the sister restaurant to the much-lauded FIG, and James Beard Award-winning Chef Mike Lata and his partner Adam Nemirow draw upon a well-groomed network of local purveyors and farm-to-table techniques to put a contemporary fine-dining spin on the classic oyster house format. The refurbished bank building has 22-foot ceilings and high, round-topped windows, and it creates a setting that’s sparkling, stylish, and full of energy. The gleaming white tile raw bar serves impressive towers of oysters and clams on the half-shell from boutique producers, including local delicacies like Capers Blades and Otter Islands during the colder months. The “hot” and “cold” selections offer an array of small plates designed for sharing, and a few items have become regular fixtures, like savory pickled shrimp and the most insanely delicious fried oyster sliders on the planet. Most of the menu changes daily, though, offering a few large plate options like delicately fried triggerfish schnitzel and grilled snapper with citrus vierge. A daily prix fixe option provides a soup, entree, and dessert for just $35, including lobster rolls on Tuesday and a Southern fish fry on Sundays — a bargain for such high-quality fare. Bold, ambitious, and fanatical about quality, The Ordinary showcases high-end Charleston seafood at its very best. —Robert Moss Dish, Winter 2016

Pane e Vino

Downtown - Italian

Jonathan Boncek

Mixed seafood grill

Surrounded by a vine-laden fence that shelters you from the street, the patio at Pane e Vino is where it’s at. Inside, the small dining room has its own cozy ambiance and the menu is stocked with traditional Italian dishes, like big bowls of spaghetti, cioppino, and potato gnocchi. They’ve also got fresh mozzarella with tomatoes and olive oil, and lasagna with ground beef, fontina, and mushrooms. It’s simple but hearty food that keeps the locals coming back for more. Al fresco dining at its best. —Eric Doksa Dish (Winter 2015)

Pavilion Bar

Downtown - Cocktail Bar

While its view is killer and its menu indulgent, the Pavilion Bar isn't somewhere that you're going to just pop into on a Tuesday for drinks. Instead, keep this place in your back pocket for special occasions. The mojitos are made with Cruzan rum and fruit purées (strawberry and kiwi, blueberry, raspberry), and the martinis with Hendrick's, Grey Goose, and other high-quality liquor. The food is equally elegant, offering filet mignon kebab, lobster thermidor and portabella pizza, and a Kobe beef burger. Most of the appetizers are more expensive than the more meal-like parts of the menu (like the sandwiches, which come with a side of waffle fries). At $19, the Duck Confit Nachos seem excessively priced, but it's also excessively portioned. Don't order it unless you're with a large group, otherwise you may have trouble finishing it. —Susan Cohen

Prohibition

Downtown - Modern American

Jonathan Boncek

Lamb chops

Prohibition has taken its place on King Street like a Roaring ’20s gangster — well-dressed and ready for business. Reclaimed wood walls, tin ceiling tiles, and Edison bulb fixtures have brought what was once a bright dance club into the trendy present while Chef Greg Garrison has turned it into a bona fide dining destination with winning entrees like Molly Pitcher’s Pork Chop Skillet and the Capone Burger. At brunch, Duck Hash is the star, with tender duck confit perched atop a potato, onion, and bell pepper hash with fried eggs and a generous drizzle of sriracha hollandaise. The bar hosts regular tastings and paired dinners and keeps plenty of local and regional draft favorites on tap, while the cocktail menu holds gems like the 547 Manhattan, a Charleston take on the cocktail, made with Templeton Rye and a splash of the Holy City’s favorite orange liqueur, Grand Marnier. —Sam Spence Dish (Winter 2015)

R. Kitchen

Downtown - American

Self dubbed "Charleston's best kept secret," this tiny restaurant features a rotating cast of chefs and a back patio.

Red Drum

Mt. Pleasant - Fusion + Eclectic

Jonathan Boncek

At Red Drum, Ben Berryhill’s distinctive South-by-Southwest style blends the best of Lowcountry ingredients with the flavors and style of Texas. You can sample it in the elegant dining room with formal dinner service, out on the big patio, or elbow-to-elbow with your neighbors in the bustling up-tempo bar. Fresh, sustainable local fish and a huge custom wood-burning grill are key. Berryhill fires that grill with locally cut oak and pecan, giving a dose of smoky char to big steaks and burgers, as well as whatever fresh fish was brought in that day. The wood-grilled South Carolina quail, paired with Texas venison sausage atop a skillet of chile cheddar grits, has become a local classic, and after an empirical survey Eric Doksa and I have declared Red Drum’s fried shrimp to be hands down the best in town. —Robert Moss Dish, Winter 2016

Rosebank Farms Cafe

Seabrook Island - Southern

Rosebank Farms Café has been doing local since before it was a catchphrase. Led by new chef Graham Parris, the casual restaurant sources fresh food from the fields of owner Julie Limehouse’s farms and the waters surrounding the sea islands. Parris revamped the menu by putting an inventive spin on Southern classic staples, though many longtime menu items remain due to popular demand. The lunchtime blue plate special is a great way to sample the restaurant’s fare: order a meat (like fried oysters or pulled pork) and two sides (like Geechie Boy white cheddar grits or fried green tomatoes) for $10.75. Or go with our favorite: the honey and buttermilk fried chicken breast with sweet potato fries. Things get even more Southern at supper, when you can order one of four plays on shrimp and grits or the peach tea brined pork tenderloin with Big Bees Honey sweet mashed potatoes and collards topped with peach glaze. And whatever you do, don’t skip dessert. —Erica Jackson Curran Dish (Summer 2013)

Sermet's Downtown

Downtown - Mediterranean

Jonathan Boncek

A recent ownership change brought a thorough overhaul to the interior of this long-time downtown favorite. Out went the bright, funky paintings and Bohemian decor and in came the trappings of more elegant fine-dining: floor-length ivory curtains, white tablecloths, and cloth covers on the chairs. Former owner Sermet Aslan has stayed on as executive chef, so the food remains essentially the same. That means pasta, chicken, and seafood dishes that blend fresh flavors with Mediterranean twists. Pearl couscous takes the place of rice, sautéed calamari is tossed with orange zest and fennel, and the mozzarella is pulled in-house. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2013)

Slightly North of Broad

Downtown - New Southern

At Slightly North of Broad, Executive Chef Frank Lee helped establish the New Southern style that is now the hallmark of Charleston dining. Decades later the restaurant remains as relevant and reliable as ever, serving delicious, inventive plates day in and day out without ever feeling stale. Lee was an early advocate for using fresh ingredients from local farmers and producers, and his food blends traditional Southern flavors with flawless French-inspired technique. Exquisite seared scallops are served with roasted cauliflower, curried tomato broth, and cilantro. A delightful Carolina quail breast is stuffed with tasso-laced cornbread dressing, accompanied by braised greens, and finished with muscadine glaze and quail jus. Plates like the local beef carpaccio, with paper-thin slices drizzled with tangy dijon vinaigrette, offer brilliant examples of a traditional preparation with fresh local products, and the restaurant’s charcuterie program remains one of the best in town. SNOB is Charleston’s premier power lunch spot on weekdays, too, though you don’t have to break the bank with the express lunch — the entree of the day with a soup or salad and a drink is a very economical $11.95. SNOB helped lay the foundation for the Charleston culinary revolution, and its kitchen has been the training ground for a succession of talented local cooks. Head down to East Bay Street any day of the week to taste why it remains a local culinary icon. —Robert Moss Dish, Winter 2016

Spero

Downtown - American

Spero has quickly jumped up the ranks as one of our favorite places for a casual meal in Charleston. What makes Spero so special is not only the ultra laid back atmosphere and staff that makes you feel right at home, but the consistent quality of dishes coming out of the kitchen. If that’s not enough, the dishes are extremely affordable and the menu changes daily. There are plates of roast beets with strawberries and bleu cheese, deviled eggs with country ham and pickles, and clams in a killer miso cream broth. The one constant on the menu is the bread flight, which is a must start for every meal: cornbread with burnt honey miso butter, beef tallow biscuits with horseradish creme, and sourdough pretzel bread with ham and mustard butter — delicious. We certainly recommend sharing a table full of small plates, but don’t forget the sandwiches, as the lamb barbacoa and the Korean stand up to any other sandwiches around town. Oh, and they serve freshly baked cookies on a platter with a glass of milk to seal the deal. —Eric Doksa Dish, Winter 2016

Swig & Swine

West Ashley - Barbecue

Jonathan Boncek

If you follow pitmaster and co-owner Anthony DiBernardo on social media, you’ll see that the man doesn’t sleep. He’s stoking his custom-built smokers at 2 a.m., tirelessly perfecting the art of wood-smoked barbecue, sometimes with his son in tow. The man is clearly passionate about his craft, and the rest of us get to reap the benefits. Pull up a stool at the meat counter at this popular eatery, and DiBernardo himself might break from tending the fires to offer you a taste while you’re waiting for your order, be it tender pulled pork, sausage, turkey, wings, pork belly, or brisket. All come with your choice of four house-made sauces (an amalgam of southern barbecue styles), plus a bonus jalapeño sauce for heat seekers. Sides are plentiful and service swift and friendly. Wash it all down with a sweet tea if you so choose, but the swig list here might tempt you to hang out long after you’ve taken your last bite. Creative craft cocktails incorporate moonshine, absinthe, muddled fruits, and herbs, and the craft beer list goes on for pages. With whiskeys, swanky bourbons, wines, and even hard ciders, it’s clear this contemporary roadside eatery takes its swig as seriously as its swine. —Allston McCrady

Tavern & Table

Mt. Pleasant - Modern American

Jonathan Boncek

Deviled egg trio

This newly transformed waterfront venue combines the best of many worlds. With multiple interior dining areas, indoor and outdoor bars, a covered deck and couch-lined dockside patio, diners can choose the seat that best suits their mood. That could be enjoying soy caramel-glazed short ribs with house-made ramen noodle gnocchi beneath handcrafted chandeliers inside, or biting into luscious shrimp beignets on the outdoor patio while watching pelicans skim the water. Chef Katie Lorenzen-Smith rocks the house with serious skill and a Southern-meets-Asian-meets-international flare. The house-made charcuterie board is a must, as are lobster wontons, duck meatloaf, and brick oven flatbreads (we love the glazed fig and prosciutto with fontina cheese and wild arugula). With a wide selection of adult beverages to help wash it all down, and with gorgeous sunsets over Shem Creek to boot, this new hot spot is just taking off. —Allston McCrady Dish (Winter 2015)

The Islander

Daniel Island - Seafood

Tucked into an office park right off I-526, the folks at Holy City Hospitality have created a tasty tropical oasis for Daniel Islanders. Grab a seat at the outdoor bar where misting fans and calypso music lull you into vacation mode as you savor grilled jerk chicken, velvety truffled potato soup, or a roasted kale salad balanced with garlic, fennel, oranges, bacon, and avocado. By day, the chipotle shrimp and avocado salad with toasted cumin and yogurt dressing is a big hit with workforce regulars, as are mahi mahi tacos and conch chowder, while evening brings substantial entrees such as cassava crusted grouper over a luscious succotash of local butterbeans and shiitakes. Just be sure to leave room for the white chocolate banana bread pudding (it’s foodgasmic). With rum drinks galore, local brews, fresh daily specials, “lunch express” options, and happy hour promotions, this island escape aims to please. —Allston McCrady Dish (Winter 2015)

Trattoria Lucca

Downtown - Italian

Adam Chandler

Crudo

Ken Vedrinksi knows pastas and he knows it well. At Lucca, he makes fresh pasta and serves elevated Italian cuisine using the finest seafood, produce, and meats from nearby purveyors. He makes it a point to continuously venture back to Italy to procure some of the best olive oils, cheeses, cured meats, and marvelous wines too. The quaint charm of Lucca acts as the perfect setting for us to be awed by Vedrinski’s work. The ever-changing menu gives us every reason to go back as often as possible. In the winter months, you might find a heritage pork chop with fennel peperonata, smoked scamorza, and barolo vinegar, candele, “gran arso” topped with Hen of the Woods mushrooms, a soft egg, and pancetta, or our favorite — a winter lettuce salad with gorgonzola gelato, fried grapes, almonds, and EVO. Vedrinski is a master of the craft, and Lucca should be on everyone’s must-eat list. It’s an experience that will wow each and every time. —Eric Doksa Dish, Winter 2016

Two Boroughs Larder

Downtown - Modern American

Jonathan Boncek

Clams and mushrooms

Josh and Heather Keeler’s Two Boroughs Larder, a stylish combination of a food and tableware market with a serious nose-to-tail restaurant, helped establish the trendy dining scene in the Cannonborough-Elliotborough neighborhood. Josh’s menu changes daily, reflecting his passionate commitment to using seasonal local ingredients with bold, fresh flavors. Small plates offer tasty morsels, like a slow-cooked egg atop grain porridge and wagyu tartare with hot sauce and buttermilk. Local triggerfish join lamb neck and pork collars on heartier entrées, and more adventurous bits like fried sweetbreads and braised beef tongue appear with regularity. For simpler satisfaction, there’s always a bowl of delicious buckwheat noodles in a savory pork broth and a selection of breakfast sandwiches topped with housemade scrapple or chicken boudin blanc. You can build-your-own-bowl during Tuesday noodle night, and Wednesday burger nights bring towering double-pattied concoctions on brioche buns. —Robert Moss Dish, Winter 2016

Vincent Chicco's

Downtown - Italian

The dining room is gorgeous at this venture from Holy City Hospitality Group (Coast, Virginia’s on King, 39 Rue de Jean), and the menu is classic Italian-American. The pastas, made in house, aren’t as supple as they are at some of the other Italian places we love, but the sauces are rich, meaty (ragu alla bolognese, lamb sugo), and satisfying (classic carbonara). Painted Hills ribeye, veal Saltimbocca, and Sicilian Sunday Gravy offer hearty fare. The space itself is worth a visit. The old warehouse has soaring ceilings, heavy wooden beams, and industrial brick walls washed in a comforting Tuscan yellow, making for a lovely setting to break bread, sip wine, and snack on a spread of charcuterie. —Stephanie Barna Dish (Winter 2015)

Virginia's on King

Downtown - Southern

Situated on King Street just a block north of Marion Square, Virginia’s serves up classic home-style Southern fare — think chicken and dumplings, brown sugar-glazed ham, and fried chicken with all the fixin’s, like Hoppin’ John, Carolina Gold Rice, and baked sweet potatoes. The dark wooden tables, exposed brick walls, and old paintings and portraits with gold trim make you feel like you’re dining in a grand South of Broad home. The dessert menu features classics like pecan pie and key lime pie with raspberry coulis. And whether you’re there for dinner or supper, don’t miss put on the okra soup, tomato pie, and Lowcountry boil. —Eric Doksa Dish (Winter 2015)

Wasabi - Daniel Island

Daniel Island - Sushi + Japanese

The Daniel Island incarnation of Wasabi has hibachi favorites alongside upscale sushi offerings with plenty of extravagant flourishes. On pleasant evenings, roll-up doors convert the big bar in the front corner into an open-air happy-hour spot, and the white leather booths and elaborate lighting fixtures set a bold, stylish tone. The hibachi grill turns out a reliable selection of chicken, steak, and seafood, and the sushi bar sends out a parade of creative rolls, like the Diablo with its spicy tuna and cucumber topped with jalapeño and kimchi sauce. The specialty sushi selection is where the real action is, presenting beautiful, delicate plates like kanpachi carpaccio dressed with prickly yuzu tobikko and sharp white truffle or Japanese snapper graced with yuzu and 250-million-year-old Himalayan pink salt. You can even get real freshly ground wasabi root to go alongside. —Robert Moss Dish (Winter 2015)

Wild Olive

Johns Island - Italian

Jonathan Boncek

Downtown isn’t the only place to find great Italian cuisine. Indeed, despite the excellent Italian options on the peninsula, many a downtowner has been known to drive to Johns Island for Jacques Larson’s food. Besides, it’s a lovely (and rather short) drive down the oak-lined Maybank Highway to the country. Located near the local farm community, Wild Olive maintains a fresh, seasonal menu with ease. Start with an antipasto of crispy calamari with marinara, house-cured salami with mozzarella, thinly sliced beef carpaccio striped with horseradish aioli, or a bowl of warm olives. Move on to one of the many housemade pastas, like the ravioli with butter beans, ricotta, smoked ham hock, carbonara, and scallions, or choose an entree of grilled swordfish with Sea Island purple cape beans, shrimp, and puttanesca sauce. And if you see anything on the menu braised in milk, order it. You can’t go wrong. The wine list is mostly Italian with a great selection of wines from the entire boot. Don’t forget to save room for a tiramisu, Venetian apple cake, or homemade gelato for dessert. —Eric Doksa Dish, Winter 2016

Zero Restaurant + Bar

Downtown - Cafés

Jonathan Boncek

Hamachi collar

Chef Vincent Petrillo preps around the clock, quite literally, in a tiny open kitchen set into the old carriage house of this historic venue. Greet him as you enter, then take a seat in the cozy, romantic dining room (seats are limited, so reservations are key), or on the enclosed garden patio in warmer weather. With its proximity to the new Gaillard Center, Zero George is ideal for pre-theater cocktails, exotic appetizers (Petrillo’s signature octopus dish won him “Best Young Chef” at an international cooking competition in Milan), or post-theater nightcaps. But don’t stop there. Dinner is a must for foodies, especially if you can plop down change for a tasting menu with pairings. Petrillo’s molecular gastronomy wizardry keeps you guessing as to how on earth he pulls off little touches like puffed anchovy crisps, citrus infusions, perfectly coddled three-minute duck eggs, crushed lobster shell broth, or a “nest” of dehydrated veal, all mere accents to well balanced dishes. The menu changes weekly. Some diners may recognize Petrillo from his success on Food Network’s Chopped!, but here in Charleston, the chef makes his streamlined boutique kitchen center stage. —Allston McCrady Dish, Winter 2016

Classified Listings
Most Viewed

Powered by Foundation   © Copyright 2016, Charleston City Paper   RSS